Community Assembly coming to Milford Haven.
In the centre of Milford Haven there are about 8 acres where no houses can be built because it’s the landfill site, covered over 17 years ago. It was run before the days of landfill laws (2005) before compaction and recycling were mandatory. The land is not stable and could leak pollutants. Methane gas is collected from it constantly.
So here is a huge swathe of land in a town with a dramatic history of military, trade, fishing and oil and gas, but an uncertain future. Despite the energy industry the town of 14,000+ suffers from deprivation and impoverished city problems. These acres have great potential to help the citizens. They are next to the leisure centre, a youth centre, sea cadets and primary school.
We want local people to help shape what happens on this land, in partnership with Pembrokeshire County Council.
What it’s all about
Grwp has been seeking land for community growing since 2020. We tried to help local people like Caroline Jones who has been seeking community land in Milford Haven for nature and healing, we applied for one site and failed. Then the council suggested we apply for an asset transfer for this site.
But we found that Pembrokeshire council already had plans for the land to provide renewable energy to power the leisure centre, a worthy cause. Grwp is part of West Wales Climate Coalition (WWCC) which meets with the council, We suggested that the council allow the people around the land to plan its future after a proper process. The process is a Community Assembly using deliberative democracy. And we met with enthusiasm, so plans are fast developing for a Pen y Poble, or people powered planning process where ‘democracy is for everyone’.
It will start off with a family fun and ideas festival, on the land on August 14th. Everyone connected to Milford is welcome. Milford Youth matters is offering circus skills, the officer for leisure James Walters will do a historical tour of the site, and ATEB will share social housing challenges. The day is about family fun, with activities for children, games and a place to bring your ideas for the land. This is just an appetite whetter for a proper Assembly, if we can muster the funds and skills.
The Assembly will be people from all walks of life in the area who might need the land. They will come up with plans after they have seen all sides of the coin – got fully informed and deliberated together. While the council keeps the power to make the final decision, they will discuss with them beforehand to get as close as possible to adopting the Assembly’s conclusions.
This process is a different way to do democracy. It bridges the gap between ‘them’ and ‘us’. It taps into the ‘wisdom of the hive’ – the good will and good sense of ordinary people from across all ages and backgrounds. Once they are trusted and given the time and means to understand the issues they find ways to agree together and also come up with a wealth of ideas based on long and personal experience. In the UK relations between governed and government are not in the best health. This is a way to transform the relationship by simply handing back the power to the people in a structured way.
2020, first radical democracy in Pembs council building when Cllr Cris Tomos (centre top) invited the youth strikers into the councillors meeting room to discuss climate action with him. They left asking ‘Did that really happen?’
The Meads Needs project is an aspirational initiative put forward by Grwp Resilience and the West Wales Climate Coalition, with the aim of encouraging Pembrokeshire Council to embrace the concept of deliberative democracy. It proposes the establishment of a Community Assembly to determine the future use of an 8-acre plot of land adjacent to the Meads housing estate. With various competing demands for the land, including housing, renewable energy, recreational activities, and agriculture, the primary objective is to ensure that the land serves the neighbouring facilities and residents effectively.
Pembrokeshire Council is keen on promoting inclusive co-production among its residents as a means to build a cohesive society and overcome resource limitations through collaboration. The council is interested in piloting democratic processes that effectively engage the community in decision-making, and the Meads land presents an ideal opportunity for such a test.
The proposal draws inspiration from established procedures of deliberative democracy, often known as “Citizens Assemblies” or similar terms, which have a proven track record of success. The envisioned Meads Assembly would provide a platform for residents to come together, deliberate, and make informed decisions regarding the future use of the land.
By implementing the Meads Needs project, Grwp Resilience hopes to encourage Pembrokeshire Council to embrace a collaborative and democratic approach to land use planning. It seeks to foster community cohesion and empowerment, giving residents an active role in shaping their local environment and contributing to the development of their community.